the word "proofread" followed check boxes that say "grammar," "formatting," and "spelling"

The Dos and Don’ts of Proofreading

The topic of copyediting is talked about at length within the publishing industry, but there is little discussion about another aspect of the editorial process that is equally as important: proofreading. Here is a quick guide to everything you need to know about proofreading your next project.

Proofreading is one of the last steps in the editorial process. The manuscript has completed all rounds of copyediting, has been XML typecoded, and has been sent to the designer to complete the interior. The book is nearly complete and just needs a final check to ensure that errors weren’t introduced during the design process and that there are no lingering grammatical errors. Proofreading is the final step before the book is sent to the printer, but there is much confusion about what is and is not covered during this stage of editing.

Here are some things to look for as you complete your next proofread:

Weird Spacing:

Be on the lookout for missing spaces between words or punctuation and places where there are additional spaces where there shouldn’t be.

Leftover XML Coding:

At Ooligan, our books are XML typecoded so that the designer knows what special treatment different words and sections should have. Sometimes parts of this code accidentally make its way into the final manuscript, so be on the lookout for erroneous code.


Double-check that everything from the final version of the manuscript has been included in the designed version. Check for missing paragraphs or words, missing images or graphics, or missing punctuation marks.


As you are proofreading, check the punctuation surrounding words that are in bold or italics—do they follow the guidelines outlined in your style guide? Also be on the lookout for placement of punctuation within quotations—do they follow the guidelines outlined in your style guide?

Closed vs. Open Compounds:

Make sure that compounds are following the Hyphenation Guide for Chicago.

Consistent Spelling:

Be on the lookout for names, places, and other words that may be spelled inconsistently throughout the manuscript. We recommend keeping the style sheet for the book nearby as you proofread.


Double-check that all ellipses are formatted according to the style guide. For Chicago, it is three periods with spaces: . . .

Windows, Runts, and Orphans:

Be mindful of the way paragraphs start and end. Widows happen when the last line of a paragraph starts at the top of the next page. Runts occur when the last line of a paragraph ends with a single word. Orphans happen when the first line of a paragraph is on the bottom of a page.

Here are some things to keep in mind when completing a proofread. The time for any substantial editing is over. Now is the time to look for any glaring errors that are remaining after the copyedits are completed. We don’t want to be rewriting any of the text or posing queries to the author—there shouldn’t be any substantial changes to the manuscript at this stage.

I hope this guide helped shed some light on what is expected—and what to avoid—for your next proofread.

Happy proofreading!

question marks on a brown background

Style Guide, Style Sheet—What’s the Difference?

One of the things I was most confused about when I first started editing with Ooligan was the difference between a style guide and a style sheet. There were a lot of times during my first term when I thought they were the same thing. With some hands-on practice—and the help of the editorial department—I soon learned that they are not the same and are actually quite different. For anyone who has been in a similar situation, here’s everything you need to know about style guides and style sheets.

Style Guides

Think of a style guide as a collection of rules and suggestions that editors use to ensure that everything follows a consistent set of guidelines. The style guide that is predominantly used in publishing is The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), although there are others such as the AP Stylebook and the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA). According to the Chicago website, “The Chicago Manual of Style is the venerable, time-tested guide to style, usage, and grammar . . . It is the indispensable reference for writers, editors, proofreaders, indexers, copywriters, designers, and publishers, informing the editorial canon with sound, definitive advice.” CMOS has rules on everything: capitalization, hyphenation, the treatment of numerals, abbreviations, punctuation, and even formatting. As I like to say, there is a rule for everything, and Chicago lists every rule.

A related document that you will come across is the in-house style guide. Sometimes an individual publishing house or press will deviate from the standard style guide, and these deviations are tracked in the in-house style guide. Think of an in-house style guide as a supplement to the major style guide that is specific to the press or publishing house. For example, if your press has guidelines on hyphenating compound words that differ from the guidelines in CMOS, these will be documented in the in-house style guide. Just like the standard style guide, it is expected that anyone who edits for the press follows these guidelines. I highly recommend browsing this article from Grammar Girl for more information.

Style Sheets

Unlike style guides, style sheets are unique to each manuscript or document. While style guides serve as an overarching umbrella of guidelines for all manuscripts, style sheets outline the specifics of each manuscript, and the overall goal is to create consistency. Think of a style sheet as a reference document that is created so that anyone who works on the project can see exactly how things should be spelled, formatted, and styled. Style sheets can outline everything from the proper spelling of names/characters/places in the manuscript, how to treat numbers and hyphens, and even when to capitalize or italicize certain words or phrases. Check out this website for more information on style sheets.

Style guides and style sheets are both important documents to use when editing. Both style guides (standard and in-house) outline the style, grammar, and layout guidelines that the manuscript should follow. Editors should be familiar with both style guides and consistently apply them to the manuscript. Style sheets are just as important, and as an editor, you should always be sure that you match what is on the style sheet for the manuscript you are working on.

I hope this helps clarify the differences between style guides and style sheets! Happy editing!